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By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A fever has been sweeping across Rio de Janeiro since early January, building as the city enters the final stretch leading up to the actual Carnival weekend. Now the “blocos”, 424 different Carnival Samba bands approved by the city to parade on the streets this year, have been increasing in frequency and fervor.

Cordão do Boitatá draws thousands of people to Praça XV in costumes, photo by Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Each Carnival bloco is allowed one to three scheduled parades on the streets of Rio per year, concentrated around the official Carnival dates (March 5th to 8th in 2011). Unlike the world-famous parades of Samba schools at the Sambódromo, blocos are completely free of charge, and open to everyone who wants to join in the fun.

The most popular blocos of Rio are those with an interesting back-story, as well as a clear character, and some draw hundreds of thousands to the streets. A bloco that each year attracts record numbers of people, Cordão do Bola Preta, was founded in 1918 and has played a significant role in the history of the city and its Carnival.

Banda de Ipanema parades before and during the Carnival on the streets of Ipanema, photo by Paul Herbert/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Cordão do Boitatá, which performs only once a year on the Sunday of the Carnival at Praça XV is also known for drawing a large crowd dressed in colorful costumes. Another, Bloco das Carmelitas, carries a legend that involves helping a nun escape from a convent in Santa Teresa to join the parade.

The remaining schedule for some of the most famous blocos:

Saturday, February 19th, 4PM
Banda de Ipanema
Gathering Point: Praça General Osório, Ipanema


Friday, February 25th, 6PM
Cordão do Bola Preta
Gathering Point: Praça Mauá, Centro

Saturday, February 26th, 9AM
Céu na Terra
Gathering Point: Largo do Curvelo, Centro

Saturday, February 26th, 2PM
Simpatia é Quase Amor
Gathering Point: Praça General Osório, Ipanema

Sunday, February 27th, 7AM
Suvaco de Cristo
Gathering Point: Bar Joia, at Rua Faro and Rua Jardim Botânico in Jardim Botânico

Sunday, February 27th, 10AM
Escravos de Mauá
Gathering Point: Largo de São Francisco da Prainha, Centro


Friday, March 4th, 5PM
Vem Ni Mim Que sou Facinha
Gathering Point: Praça General Osório, Ipanema

Friday, March 4th, 6PM
Carmelitas
Gathering Point: Corner of Ladeira de Santa Teresa and Rua Dias de Barros, Santa Teresa

Saturday, March 5th, 7AM
Cordão da Bola Preta
Gathering Point: Cinelândia, Centro

Saturday, March 5th, 3PM
Banda de Ipanema
Gathering Point: Praça General Osório, Ipanema

Sunday, March 6th, 8:30AM
Cordão do Boitatá
Gathering Point: Praça XV, Centro

Sunday, March 6th, 3PM
Simpatia é Quase Amor
Gathering Point: Praça General Osório, Ipanema

Tuesday, March 8th, 3PM
Banda de Ipanema
Gathering Point: Praça General Osório, Ipanema

Tuesday, March 8th, 4PM
Meu Bem, Volto Já
Gathering Point: Corner of Avenida Princesa Isabel and Rua Barata Ribeiro, Copacabana

Tuesday, March 8th, 5PM
Carmelitas
Gathering Point: Corner of Ladeira de Santa Teresa and Rua Dias de Barros, Santa Teresa

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